Effects of “Executive Order 1068” getting worse—help us take a stand

Nate Honeycutt & Logan Honeycutt

“CSU Executive Order 1068:” a seemingly harmless document that when enforced as official California State University (“CSU”) policy has brought nothing but despair, frustration, and isolation to many venerated student organizations affiliated with CSU campuses.

CSU Executive Order 1068 (“EO 1068”), signed into policy December 2011 and brought into full implementation Summer 2014, mandates that the leadership and membership in every CSU campus-affiliated student organization be open to all students. The implementation and strict enforcement of this policy seems to be yet another piece in the vast array of “diversity-driven” initiatives by the CSU, seeking to root out discrimination and promote inclusivity.

Yet despite what we hypothesize to be the CSU Administration’s goals via this initiative, this policy seems to be doing just the opposite. This policy is wreaking havoc as many student organizations are being forced to choose between compromising the values and beliefs of their group to maintain campus recognition, or stand firm and be derecognized; this policy is promoting diversity within student groups instead of protecting diversity among student groups.

It is optimistic to think that no issues will occur because of EO 1068, but with today’s politically charged climate combined with the fondness college students often have for rabble-rousing it would be naïve to think students won’t attempt to infiltrate, disrupt, and potentially take-over rival or opposing groups. Then there comes funding and fundraising.

Many student organizations rely on the financial support of donors sympathetic to their cause. If clubs cannot assure that the mission and integrity of their group can be protected, how can donors be assured that their financial support will be used as intended? EO 1068 creates a litany of unnecessary problems for student groups, and inappropriately targets and essentially discriminates against many that hold to fervent ideologies and beliefs (e.g. religious clubs, political clubs, etcetera).

Despite the significant problems created by EO 1068, CSU Administrators have stood in staunch support with unwavering commitment. CSU Administrators claim that this policy is mandated by state law, or is a part of a state law that has been around for decades.  This line is a part of the talking points of nearly every statement on this issue from campus or system-wide administrators, but it simply is not true.

There is no state or federal law, or court decision that mandates the CSU enact and enforce an “all-comers” policy, or any variation thereof. While anti-discrimination policies have been around for decades to prevent discrimination against protected classes (such as race, ethnicity, gender, etcetera) they do not provide legal support for the new mandates created by EO 1068. A Supreme Court decision states that “all-comers” policies are allowed, but does not state that they are required, desirable, effective, or even practical, simply because they aren’t.

Supporters of EO 1068 frequently claim that public funding and campus resources should not go to clubs with restrictive policies, but this argument is a red herring. If CSU campuses decide to fund student groups and make campus resources (e.g. meeting rooms) available to them, the campus cannot then decide what viewpoints they agree or don’t agree with and correspondingly who should and shouldn’t be entitled to these benefits. Campuses must extend these benefits to everyone or to no one, and therein a diversity of ideas is promoted. Universities do not become more diverse or inclusive by discriminating against some groups because of the restrictions they wish to impose on those that have freely decided to become leaders in the group.

CSU SOFA has been working to raise awareness about this issue. We are founded on the premise of restoring the First Amendment principle of freedom of association to CSU campuses. By uniting student groups and other concerned individuals we hope to advocate with a strong and united voice to get things back to how they used to be.

With CSU Administrators refusing to budge or compromise on this issue some have taken the next steps of action. CSU SOFA recently endorsed the Student Freedom of Association Act (AB 1212) introduced by Shannon Grove in the California State Assembly. This legislation is a positive step toward protecting student organizations on public university campuses in California.

If passed this legislation would mandate the CSU eliminate their policy, and forbid a similar policy from being created in the University of California (“UC”) or California Community College system. Many other states have been successful in passing similar legislation, so we are hopeful California will be successful as well, and in turn become a national leader on this issue.  A hearing on this legislation has been scheduled for 21 April 2015.

We hope you may be willing to take action on this issue, possibly by joining the CSU SOFA coalition and/or by expressing support for AB 1212. We need support from you and the student organizations you, your friends, and your colleagues are a part of so that when we speak out our voice is stronger because of those we represent.

Individually we can try to make progress on this issue, but together we have the potential to make even greater strides.  Help us protect the rights and existence of many well-established student groups as we try to get the CSU back on track toward truly being a student-focused leader in higher education.